Thousands flock to see Olympic flame in Japan despite virus fears

People wearing face masks take pictures in front of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic flame, which is displayed outside Sendai railway station. (AFP)
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Updated 23 March 2020

Thousands flock to see Olympic flame in Japan despite virus fears

  • Serbia and Croatia joined the Olympic committees and sports bodies opposing the IOC’s plans to proceed, while German former world champion fencer Max Hartung, who has already qualified for Tokyo, said he would boycott the Games

Tens of thousands of people flocked to a cauldron with the Olympic flame in northeastern Japan over the weekend despite concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
The flame arrived in Japan to a scaled-down welcoming ceremony on Friday as doubts grew over whether the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will go ahead on schedule as the deadly virus causes chaos around the world.
The pandemic has already shredded the global sports calendar, with top sports leagues suspended and major tournaments postponed.
More than 50,000 people on Saturday queued to watch the flame displayed at Sendai station in Miyagi, chosen as part of the “Recovery Olympics” to showcase the region’s revival after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.
Some had to stay in a 500-meter (1,650-foot) queue for several hours, local media said.
Many of them wore masks as they took pictures with the cherry blossom-shaped cauldron.
“I queued for three hours but watching the Olympic flame was greatly encouraging,” a 70-year-old woman told public broadcaster NHK.
But organizers, concerned about the bigger-than-expected gathering, have warned the viewing event could be suspended if a crowd becomes “extremely dense,” local media reported.
The nationwide torch relay begins on March 26, starting from the J-Village sports complex in Fukushima that was used as a base for workers during the 2011 nuclear disaster.
But organizers have been forced to scale back the relay, closing daily ceremonies to the public and urging spectators to “avoid forming crowds” along the route.


Mercedes F1 team helps to develop breathing aid in pandemic

Updated 30 March 2020

Mercedes F1 team helps to develop breathing aid in pandemic

  • New breathing aid similar to those used in Italy, China to fight coronavirus symptoms
  • Lack of ventilators a major concern as coronavirus cases increase

LONDON: Formula One team Mercedes has helped to develop a breathing aid that could keep coronavirus patients out of intensive care and ease some pressure on Britain’s strained health service.
As part of a combined effort involving seven Britain-based teams, Mercedes worked with engineers at the University College London and clinicians at University College London Hospital to adapt and improve a device that bridges the gap between an oxygen mask and the need for full ventilation.
The device, known as continuous positive airway pressure, has been used extensively in hospitals in Italy and China to deliver oxygen to the lungs of coronavirus patients during the pandemic.
UCL said the adapted devices have been recommended for use in Britain and that 100 of them are being sent to its hospital for clinical trials. There is the potential for quick roll-out by Mercedes to hospitals across the country.
Tim Baker, a professor from UCL’s department of mechanical engineering, said clinicians called on the “capability of Formula One” to reduce a process “that could take years down to a matter of days,” with the adapted device taking less than 100 hours to develop from an initial meeting.
“We have been proud to put our resources at the service of UCL,” said Andy Cowell, managing director of Mercedes, “to deliver the CPAP project to the highest standards and in the fastest possible time frame.”
The technology arms of six other teams — Red Bull, Haas, McLaren, Renault, Williams and Racing Point — contributed to the developing of the CPAP devices, as part of what F1 has labeled “Project Pitlane.”
The teams say they will continue to pool their resources and “support in other areas requiring rapid, innovative technology responses to the unique challenges posed” by the pandemic.
The CPAP machines work by pushing a mix of oxygen and air into the mouth and nose at a continuous rate, helping to increase the amount of oxygen entering the lungs. They are used routinely by Britain’s National Health Service but are in short supply currently.
There have been almost 20,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Britain, with more than 1,200 deaths.
For most people, the new virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
The F1 season has yet to start, with the first eight races of the schedule having been postponed or canceled. It means there will be no racing until the middle of June at the earliest.
Mercedes is the leading team in F1, with defending champion Lewis Hamilton as its top driver.